Suze Orman
Photo: Robert Trachtenberg
I am so sorry for your loss. And I'm concerned that you're making major decisions right now. After a loved one's death, we're often too raw to do so with clarity.

Paying down your mortgage seems to make sense: You want security. But can you pay most of the property tax and general maintenance with your monthly income? If not, downsizing could be a better move. Dipping into your savings here and there is fine, but you don't want to deplete your investment portfolio too quickly.

Now about that portfolio—is the stock portion invested in stocks or exchange-traded funds that pay dividends? Dividend payers are a smart choice for retirees. You get income today, and the companies that pay those dividends should do well over time, which can carry you through the years to come. You should also have a diversified portfolio of high-quality individual bonds.

I sense that you've left it to your financial adviser to handle these decisions. He may be wonderfully capable, but no adviser will ever care about your money as much as you do. So in a few months, make it a priority to better understand your investments. The more you know about what your money is doing for you, the more secure you'll feel.

Suze Orman's most recent book is her Action Plan: New Rules for New Times (Spiegel & Grau).

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